Summary

Navi has been on the horizon for three years now, back in 2016 with the launch of Polaris we have been hearing about and waiting for Navi.  Navi was at the top of AMD’s roadmap, there has been a lot of hype around Navi in those last three years.  Some of that hype actually has come true.  Today, July 7th AMD is officially launching its Radeon RX 5700 series video cards.  The Radeon RX 5700 series is based on Navi and the new RDNA architecture.  These are the things the predictions got right about Navi, it is a new architecture, it is using next generation memory and it is scalable.  All of those characteristics define Navi. 

What this current release isn’t, is AMDs attempt and gaining the high-end GPU market back.  That is unfortunate, many assumed back then that Navi was going to be AMD’s answer to the high-end GPU performance that NVIDIA has been dominating for more than several years now.  Instead, the Radeon RX 5700 series that we have today, based on Navi, is a good replacement for AMD’s Vega line of GPUs offering competitive performance at aggressive and appetizing prices.  We also think the Radeon RX 5700 series is going to be a lot more affordable for AMD to manufacture, compare to Vega with its expensive HBM2 memory. 

We went over all the specifications at the beginning of the review, but let’s quickly recap what is on the table in front of us.  The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is now $399, based on 7nm, Navi, and RDNA architecture.  It has 40 compute units, 2560 stream processors, 64 ROPs and 160 texture units and operates at a gaming clock speed of around 1755MHz on paper.  It has 8GB of GDDR6 memory on a 256-bit bus providing 448GB/sec of bandwidth and supports PCIe 4.0. 

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 is now $349, based on 7nm, Navi and RDNA architecture.  It has 36 compute units, 2304 stream processors, 64 ROPs and 144 texture units and operates at a gaming clock speed of around 1625MHz on paper.  It has the same memory configuration as the Radeon RX 5700 XT, 8GB, GDDR6, 448GB/sec of memory bandwidth. 

Then there is the Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition.  It will be $449 now and has faster clock speeds 1980MHz boost, 1830MHz game and 1680MHz base, but otherwise the same specs as the RX 5700 XT.   

AMD got us all pretty good when only two days before this launch it lowered the pricing on the Radeon RX 5700 series.  Ultimately, this was a good decision and helps paint a more positive outcome for these video cards.  If the original pricing had remained, we think there would be a lot of more negative reviews today since it was hard to justify the price versus performance at those previous prices.  Now that the prices are what they are it should bring much more competition to the market.

Performance

When it comes to the performance, we were quite impressed considering the new pricing structure.  We also found that some games perform better than others.  There are a few outlier games, that is games that seemed to be very optimized for AMD Radeon GPUs and thus performed very fast compared to the competition.  Then there are games that are equally optimized for NVIDIA GPUs.  We had a few games where the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT was at or beating the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER video card.  In those specific games, that’s great.  However, we would not call this the norm.  Out of all the games, most of the performance resulted in the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER performing faster than the Radeon RX 5700 XT.

Radeon RX 5700 XT

What the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT did do well at is competing with the GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition.  The GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition is a $599, yet the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT has come in at $399 and equals the performance of that video card.  Remember, the Founders Edition also runs at a faster clock frequency than the standard RTX 2070 non-Founders Edition video cards.  That’s even more impressive, it means the Radeon RX 5700 XT is a strong video card for its price.  It has moved this performance level down in price, and you actually save money with the Radeon RX 5700 XT. 

When we look at the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER though, that one is $100 more than the Radeon RX 5700 XT and it does provide faster performance.  It’s real interesting though because in some game’s performance can be close.  There might be some gamers who would rather save $100 and have a little less performance since it isn’t a huge difference.

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT at $399 does though provide a better gameplay experience and performance compared to the similarly priced $399 GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER video card.  These video cards are the same price, yet in every game the Radeon RX 5700 XT was mostly faster.  There are a few games where they are the same, but for the most part the Radeon RX 5700 XT was faster than the RTX 2060 SUPER.  That’s faster performance, at the same price.

Radeon RX 5700

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 is the real value though, in our opinion.  It competes and provides a better gaming experienced compared to NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2060 original release.  The video cards are the same price, but the Radeon RX 5700 beats it pretty severely in a lot of games.  We saw performance differences upwards of 15% over the performance of the GeForce RTX 2060.  That makes a difference. 

In addition, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 has 8GB of VRAM (versus 6GB on the RTX 2060) for more demanding games, higher game settings and smoother performance at higher resolutions.  If you are trying to decide between a GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD Radeon RX 5700 it’s a no brainer, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 is the better buy. 

It gets a bit trickier when comparing the AMD Radeon RX 5700 to the new GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER however.  Both of those video cards have 8GB of VRAM.  The RTX 2060 SUPER is only $50 more, and is generally faster.  However, that isn’t always the case.  In those games that are well optimized for AMD GPUs sometimes the Radeon RX 5700 was on top.  It really depends on the game.  With the Radeon RX 5700 you save a little bit of money. 

Resolution

It’s clear that the AMD Radeon RX 5700 series is not AMD’s answer for 4K performance.  Even the Radeon VII is not a great 4K card.  4K is still best handled by the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.

We have found that for the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 1440p gameplay is its sweet spot.  It is going to depend on the game, but most games are playable at the highest in-game settings at 1440p on the Radeon RX 5700 XT.  Some more demanding games, like Metro Exodus you will find yourself lowering settings at 1440p to be playable though.

With the AMD Radeon RX 5700 we feel 1080p is the preferred resolution for it.  You will be able to run most games at the highest in-game settings at 1080p on this video card and it will do it better than the RTX 2060.

Ray Tracing

We have to bring up ray tracing.  Right now, AMD does not have an answer for NVIDIA’s software ray tracing support or hardware acceleration for ray tracing.  The AMD Radeon RX 5700 series video cards might be capable of DXR, but to this date AMD has not released drivers for DXR in software. AMD also lacks any kind of dedicated hardware to accelerate performance beyond software. NVIDIA supports both DXR in software on its GeForce GTX series, as well has having dedicated hardware to accelerate ray tracing in real-time on its GeForce RTX series, NVIDIA comes at it from both sides.  

Some games aren’t so bad at running ray tracing these days either, for example Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s shadow ray tracing is playable and usable on GeForce RTX video cards.  More and more games are coming that support ray tracing, like Cyberpunk 2077.   It’s something gamers may want to experience, so that has to be a consideration. We know AMD is getting ripped pretty badly for not having an answer to that right now, and they don’t need any extra jabs about it.  We all know that it’s a one-sided advantage in terms of ray tracing at the moment.  It won’t always be that way though.